We're getting more and more of our news online, and Ofcom is getting concerned about balance:
The watchdog said more Britons than ever were getting news from online sources and this must be included in assessments of the nation's media. It found that Facebook and Google News are used by almost a fifth of people who access the internet for news, while 57 per cent view the BBC's online news coverage.That seems to square with my experience (though I'd be fascinated to compare the BBC Online and Radio 4 viewing figures). So what are Ofcom worried about?
BBC1 and Radio 4 were named the most used news services in broadcasting, while BBC News Online, Facebook and Google were voted the most used news sources on the internet.
Ah, here we are:
Google, the BBC and Facebook should be included in reviews of media ownership, regulator Ofcom has ruled.Ofcom want to examine the level at which Facebook and Google "own" news media. Well, Ofcom my friends, I have news for you. news.google.com specifically, since you cited that as an example. You do note how every single news story there is just a brief summary and has a link to the website (Globe and Mail, ABC News, USA Today, CBC.ca) where the actual news story takes place?
And Facebook - Facebook as a news originator? They're concerned about people recommending links to news stories to their friends on Facebook? Just what, exactly, do Ofcom think they should be doing about this? Apart from anything else, Google and Facebook aren't even UK organisations (does Facebook even have a UK office? I'm sure they must have, but I bet it's tiny) but quite why Ofcom thinks it's their business to meddle in social media content is quite beyond me.
So, who are Ofcom? Here is Ofcom's organisation chart as of 2010. The chief exec is Ed Richards, whom the sadly defunct blog "Drinking from Home" identified as a bit of a political hack:
Prior to Ofcom Ed was Senior Policy Advisor to the Prime Minister for Media, telecoms, internet and e-govt. Before that he was Controller of Corporate Strategy at the BBC. He also worked in consulting at London Economics Ltd, as an advisor to Gordon Brown MP and began his career as a researcher with Diverse Production Ltd, where he worked on programmes for Channel 4.That's pretty damning. How about the others on the board? Steve Unger from the Strategy, Chief Economist and technology group: here's his arrival announcement:
Steve Unger has been Director in the Competition Group where he has led many projects, most notably the current Pay TV Market Investigation. He joined Ofcom in 2003 as Director of Telecoms Technology having been Head of Network Analysis at Oftel.At least he's from the science side of the divide (Physics MA? that's Oxford or Cambridge) and is clearly a smart guy - on the other hand, he's been in Government for over 10 years, and frankly is going to be somewhat out of date. Working for two startups and then becoming a consultant means that neither startup worked out particularly well for him (otherwise he'd have stayed and cashed in). "New wireless techologies" back then would likely be WCDMA (aka 3G) and presumably the advice was "dive in with both feet, what could possibly go wrong?"
Prior to this he worked in industry – for two technology start-ups, both of whom designed and operated their own communications networks, and as a consultant advising a variety of other companies on the commercial application of new wireless technologies. Steve has a Physics MA and a PhD in Astrophysics.
Hilarously, the org chart shows the positions of directors of Technology Strategy and Network Infrastructure as "vacant". Fantastic. Just the kind of organisation you want to be commenting on and trying to control Internet content.